Banks and their customers already have access to infinite information sources; what they need is a way to pull in critical intelligence while keeping out the superfluous and irrelevant. This need becomes even more acute as the financial services industry consolidates. Financial powerhouses are determined to protect and build customer relationships by offering their clients any service they require, providing key financial information and analysis exactly when customers need it. The challenge for ever-expanding financial superstructures is not only to develop a system that will get information out to customers, but also push information from data silos and news feeds, for example, to bank personnel so that they can determine the critical data and analysis that their customers really require.

At the end of the day, financial services firms are really information companies. And as the marketplace is further commoditized, the quality and timeliness of information becomes financial companies' most compelling differentiator. "It's a whole new level of competition," says Doug Dannemiller, senior analyst in The Tower Group's wholesale banking and trust group. "It used to be that (financial institutions) competed on local knowledge; now, the trend is competing toward technology. The first step was delivery of information in the format you wanted. Now, the next step is delivering not only the information, but also the tools to analyze it the way the customer wants to analyze it."

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